For many women the period of menopause is a time of physical and mental transition. Given the controversy over use of medications, the result of a new study showing that physical activity can improve quality of life and ease symptoms is a welcomed blessing.
“The surprising aspect of the study is the fact that we found a significant association between changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and changes in menopausal symptoms,” said lead author Steriani Elavsky, Ph.D., of Penn State University. “This is contrary to other studies, which previously reported no associations.”
One hundred sixty-four sedentary menopausal women were randomly assigned to a walking program, a yoga program or a control group that did no additional exercise for four months.
The women who walked or took yoga classes reported a better quality of life and reduced negative effects of menopause compared to the no-exercise group. The women who walked or took yoga classes reported improvements in mood and menopause-related quality of life compared to the no-exercise group.
The women, whose average age was nearly 50, completed body composition and fitness assessments along with a battery of psychological tests at the beginning and end of the study, which appears in the April issue of the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
Walking was chosen because it is an aerobic activity, while yoga was chosen because it is not aerobic, said Elavsky, an assistant professor of kinesiology.
The results showed that both walking and yoga were effective at enhancing quality of life. Whether menopausal symptoms improved or worsened appeared to be determined by increases or decreases in cardiorespiratory fitness. Women who experienced decreases in menopausal symptoms in the study also experienced improvements in all positive mental health and quality of life outcomes.
About 1.5 million American women reach menopause each year, at an average age of 52, and 80 percent to 85 percent experience unpleasant symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, anxiety or emotional instability.
Fitness improvements may directly or indirectly impact the symptoms of menopause, both mental and physical, said Amy Eyler, Ph.D., of the Saint Louis University School of Public Health. “Exercise benefits so many other body systems. It should be an integral part of these types of interventions.”
Source: Health Behavior News Service